(From DHS Secretary Miller)
Effective March 25, Valerie Vicari is serving as Acting Deputy Secretary for the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS). I would like to thank Lynn Kovich for her service to OMHSAS and Pennsylvania.
Valerie has been working in the ever-evolving human service field for over 25 years. Her work has included experience in the children and youth service system and the behavioral health service system, both drug and alcohol services as well as mental health services. Her various roles have included direct service, case management, county administration, and Commonwealth administration. Valerie has been a leader within the behavioral health arena since the inception of the Medicaid Behavioral Health HealthChoices program in 2008. She was part of the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services team that brought innovative behavioral health community programming to Pennsylvania. Some examples of service development include telepsychiatry, Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) programs, Long Term Structured Rehabilitation programs (LTSR), and Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams. As services evolved, telepsychiatry, CPS and ACT programming expanded to include individuals who have both behavioral health issues as well as forensic involvement.
Valerie’s most recent position has been the Chief Executive Officer at Torrance State Hospital since June 2016. The oversight responsibilities include but are not limited to the civil psychiatric services, the Regional Forensic Psychiatric Center (RFPC) and the Sexual Responsibility Treatment Program (SRTP). There are over 300 patients served at Torrance State Hospital on an ongoing basis. In her leadership role at Torrance the hospital has become tobacco free, telepsychiatry has been developed within the forensic unit and numerous recovery focused initiatives have commenced.
People are complex, and their overall health is shaped by a variety of factors, many of which may not be visible or evident based on a conversation. We must equally focus on behavioral health and physical health and their interconnected nature in order to truly help the people we serve. Our mental and physical health do not exist in isolation, and both are influenced by the external circumstances in a person’s life.
You may know that we are working to improve care for Pennsylvanians by encouraging a whole-person focus that includes social determinants of health as well as physical and behavioral health needs. We want to encourage our physical and behavioral health providers and social service providers to work together to ensure that people do not slip through the cracks so we’re able to make a meaningful difference in their lives. Your work can help us move towards better long-term health outcomes for Pennsylvanians who use our services, and I am excited to partner with each of you to meet this goal.
On behalf of Governor Wolf, we are grateful to your commitment to the commonwealth and people affected by mental health and substance use disorders. Thank you for the work you do to elevate these issues and help people live better lives every day.
Secretary Teresa Miller